10 Tips to Build Self-Confidence That You Can Start Doing Today
More and more, we are being bombarded with social media images that can make us feel less than. Social media influencers meant to inspire us can make us feel insecure instead. For sure, when you scroll through Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok, or Facebook, you can’t help but be inundated with images of people that appear to be happier, healthier, more successful, beautiful, organized, talented, or creative than us. And these shiny images imply that you could be like them, too, if only you bought _______ (insert whatever life-changing product they are promoting)! As a normal person unedited by flattering filters and over-produced photo shoots, it’s hard not to compare your ordinary selfie to them and come up a little bit lacking sometimes. While it is possible that you can inoculate yourself against marketing ploys and find healthy and reasonable standards on social media, it’s easier than ever to get lost in the unrealistic ideals of perfectionism and end up feeling worse about yourself (not to mention spending lots of time or money on ad clicks and products and fad diets or exercise gear that do not, in reality, measurably improve your life).
This, perhaps, is why a common therapy goal I hear from clients in my practice is “I want to feel more confident in myself” or “I want to love my body more.” However, this cannot be accomplished by trying to be THAT girl or THAT guy. It can only be accomplished by being YOU. It cannot be accomplished by loving yourself only as a “result” or an “outcome” of a goal nor does self-confidence mean just accepting the way things are and being complacent with yourself either. It is accomplished by accepting that you will always be a work in progress. Self-confidence can be accomplished when you genuinely like who you are and feel assured in your abilities, including your ability to continue to grow as a person.
But how do you stop trying to be someone who isn’t YOU and learn to love who you are? For one, you can take a break from social media if it isn’t making you feel good. Beyond that, you can take steps towards building a better self-confidence with some very concrete activities and exercises. I’m not saying that it is easy or that it will happen by the end of this article, but it is possible to feel more confident in yourself and your ability to achieve your goals. If you are ready to learn more, here are my top 10 tips to increase your self-confidence:
- First, visualize yourself as you want to be. I don’t mean just your outward appearance, but your inner values and the goals that you want to achieve now and in the future. Your values define you as a person, and it’s important to build a strong foundation in order to become confident in yourself. Start with visualizing who you want to BE. What is truly most important to you? Once you have identified your core values, they will help you choose your value-driven goals, what you want to DO. Don’t just picture what you want to BE and DO though – write your values and goals down and look at it every single day. To get somewhere new, first you need a road map.
- Daily self-affirmations are a powerful tool to increase your self-confidence. It might sound cutesy, but self-affirmations are backed by research. So go ahead and tell yourself: “I am strong, I am hard-working, I am kind to others, I am beautiful just the way I am, I am enough, I am loved, I am worthy of happiness, I can face my fears, I can do anything I put my mind to.” The important thing is to find affirmations that resonate with you and to repeat them often. Say your daily affirmations in front of the mirror, write them in a journal, post them on sticky notes around your house, wear them on a bracelet, or repeat them in your head like a mantra.
- Question your inner critic. Let’s be honest, the person who puts you down the most is…. you. But is your inner critic accurate or are you magnifying your imperfections and minimizing your positive qualities and achievements? Are you sticking a judgmental label on yourself instead of describing a behavior or situation? Are you blaming yourself for things that you aren’t fully responsible for? Be aware that you may be making thinking mistakes and ask yourself, “Is it really true? Is it helpful?” And if it’s not both true and helpful, come up with more balanced self-talk that helps you feel better. Instead of accepting your self-criticisms without question, talk to yourself like you would talk to your best friend (“Hey, don’t be so hard on yourself. Everyone makes mistakes but you can do better next time. You’re an awesome person and there are a lot of great things about you that I love! Just keep trying and you’ll get it.”). In time, you can learn to be your own best friend instead of your own worst critic.
- Do one thing that scares you every day. It is normal to want to avoid the things that scare you (like saying “no”, eating a donut in front of your date, or inviting a new friend to hang out). However, avoidance keeps you from learning that these things are not really as dangerous as you may think. Gradually and repeatedly facing your fears makes you feel less anxious and more capable of coping. Over time, facing your fears helps you feel more confident in yourself. For inspiration, this daily journal can help: Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You: A Journal.
- Take a challenge. Sure, you may (at first) fail, but staying safely in your comfort zone doesn’t help you grow. To level up, you need to allow for personal growth through mastery experiences. A mastery experience refers to an experience gained when one takes on a new challenge and is successful at it. Success may require perseverance but one of the tried and true ways to improve one’s performance is by practicing, so get out there and keep at it. Improving one’s skill teaches you that you are more capable than you imagined and that’s a big confidence boost.
- Be nice to yourself. Think about what that means for you and turn it into an action. Maybe it means eating enough food today to truly nourish your body and brain. Maybe it means resisting the urge to binge on sugary snacks because it makes you feel bad and want to restrict afterward. It could mean taking that afternoon nap you so badly need, making the appointment to get your hair highlighted you’ve been putting off for months, going on a walk in the sunshine, or listening to a guided meditation with self-compassion guru Kristen Neff. Treating yourself kindly sends your brain the message you are worth it and that helps build your self-confidence.
- Be nice to others. Humans are social creatures and we need to connect with other humans to find meaning in our life. Be part of the light in someone else’s life and let them be part of the light in yours. By doing something nice for someone and getting a smile or thank you in return, you can see directly that you are valued. Even if they don’t say it directly, you can see with your own eyes how you are helping to improve someone else’s life and it feels good to be that light. Helping others also helps you feel more connected to something greater than yourself and brings self-worth and meaning to your life. So send a thoughtful text, draw someone a picture, give a compliment, help someone with their homework or housework, bring your baked goods to meeting to share, or find an opportunity to volunteer for an hour a week.
- You do you. Focus on yourself and your goals. Let someone else’s goals be their goals. Paying too much attention to what others are doing and comparing yourself to them undermines your own self-confidence. So unlearn those unrealistic societal standards of beauty (there are many different ways to be beautiful), unlearn believing your productivity determines your self-worth (you are enough just as you are), celebrate your accomplishments (it doesn’t take away from yours if someone else has a “better” one), unlearn seeking external validation from others (you can be self-assured).
- Nobody’s perfect (literally nobody). Instead of beating yourself up when you make a mistake or denying your share of the responsibility, think about what you can learn from the experience instead. Not only do mistakes lead to growth but they remind us we are human, help us become more resilient, trigger our creativity, give us courage to do better the next time, teach us about forgiveness and self-compassion, and show us where we may need more balance or boundaries in our life. There are many, many ways our self-confidence can actually benefit from making mistakes so lean into the experience and see what you can learn from it.
- Perfection is not a realistic goal. Speaking simply, it cannot be a goal in your life. You won’t ever get there because there is no such thing as a perfect body or a perfect student or a perfect mother or daughter or boyfriend. Instead, just focus on being a better version of yourself every day by setting realistic and achievable value-driven goals.
Everyone struggles with self-confidence from time to time. If your confidence issues are getting in the way of your education, work, or social life, consider reaching out for help from a mental health professional. If you are doing it on your own, start with identifying the steps you need to take toward your end goals and choose a small step that can be accomplished in an hour or less – like writing your list of self-affirmations. Demonstrating success at appropriate goals will help you get off to a good start. Building self-confidence takes some time and effort but it’s worth it. You’re worth it. And I mean that.
Dr. Rebecca Swenson is a licensed clinical psychologist and parent coach who works with children, adolescents, young adults, and families in Northern Michigan with anxiety, depression, OCD, and eating disorders. If someone in your family is struggling with emotional/behavioral health issues, contact Dr. Swenson today to learn more about evidence-based treatments that can help.